water softener repeatedly forming salt bridge?

The first year or so we lived in this house, the water softener worked fine and used about 1 bag of salt per month. This past summer, after dishes not getting cleaned properly in the dishwasher I realized there might be a problem with the water softener and that we hadn't needed to add salt in a while. It had formed a salt bridge, which we attended to with a broom handle according to instructions found from various sources, and water quality and cleaning went back to normal. Since then, salt bridges have been forming on a regular basis. It's a Kenmore softener, and according to the writing on the cupboard door next to it, was installed 7/02, so theoretically it's just over 5 years old. Any idea why the appliance is now forming these salt bridges regularly, and what to do to get things working properly again?
Thanks for helpful suggestions,
Karen
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One of the purported benefits of salts pellets (as opposed to salt crystals) is their resistance to bridging. Have you been using pellets?
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Yes, Morton Pellets System Saver II.
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Which proves that the marketing hype isn't true in real life....
In the real world, solar crystal salt is best because it causes the fewest if any salt related problems for a softener, and it is always the lowest price.
A bridge is usually caused by the salt getting wet above the water level in the tank, and then drying out which sticks the pellets together and they can't fall down into a void under them into the water. Then there's no salt brine, just fresh water to regenerate with which doesn't regenerate any resin/capacity.
So check for a spraying type water leak or sweating of the resin tank allowing the salt to get wet.
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I've heard that high humidity is a factor in bridging, but don't know what else you can do. I keep a steel rod nearby and use it periodically to break any bridges...
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humidity is the worst problem, followed by using pellets, a couple of things to do is, once the salt is way down, use a wooden rod to break ALL the salt down, as best you can around the tube. bridging can be affected by old salt that stays crusted onto the sides....another helpful thing to do is keep it half full....sometimes the bridging can get worse from it being too full. once a year let the salt get down to the water, and clean the sides, I have delivered salt to different brand softeners for over 30 years, and when I'm delivering, I always kick the side of the brine tank right at the water level before putting salt in it...it keeps the salt from crusting onto the sides. one kick on both sides, and I NEVER get a salt bridge in my customers softeners....

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When poking through salt with a rod of some kind, you want to watch you don't have a salt grid (a false bottom) in the salt tank and break it.
Gary Slusser Quality Water Associates
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Good point - the ones I've seen are plastic and could easily be broken.
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Thanks for advice and ideas. I think it could be a combination of all of the above. We filled it pretty high the last time we put salt in, and the sides do look a bit crusty. It's also very warm and probably humid in the area of the softener - it's a central "utility" room in a ranch/slab house with furnace, water heater, laundry facilities, etc. all in a very small space.
Thanks again, Karen

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